Spread the Word

Brands from different sectors often come to us with a common problem: how do we express just how good we are? Here’s the Without approach…

“What the brand stands for is clear only in the hearts of the founders and those on the ‘inside’. We know there is something genuinely special but that uniqueness is hard to articulate to ‘the outside’.”

Does this sound familiar? In the last few weeks alone, two brilliant businesses have approached Without with similar briefs: help us show the world just how good we are. This is how we do it…

Stand for something different

Third Space is a leader in the fitness sector because it’s not scared to stand for something. When they first came to us in 2015, Third Space believed in the gym membership model, despite a declining market at a time when growth was coming from pay-as-you-go. Working together, we identified a cultural shift in behaviour and language: gyms needed to shake off their punitive associations. What if, instead of sweating off guilty carbs, you meet friends for a yoga class because it’s fun and makes you feel great? Because there aren’t rows of sad TVs. Because you train with expert PTs.

It’s not for everyone: not for the short-term holiday six-pack, not for the latest wellness trend. Third Space stands for commitment, not a fling. Neither is right or wrong, but both have an opinion. For Third Space, we created a strategic brand foundation of “Training For Life”.

“Our brand isn’t a USP brand, it’s more about being distinctive,” Colin Waggett, CEO of Third Space, told us after the rebrand. “All aspects of the identity now reflect the unique feel of the experience. It now delivers on the blindfold test.” Before the rebrand, Colin had said that “if you dropped someone blindfolded into one of our gyms and asked them – after removing the blindfold – to describe the experience, the words they would use wouldn’t tally with the visuals. Whilst our offer had followed, our brand identity hadn’t.”

Our work for Third Space went on to win a DBA Effectiveness Award. Turnover leapt 38% in the three years since the rebrand; earnings per member by 36%; and membership enquiries doubled. Redesigned as part of the rebrand, the food business now turns over £2 million. And the success continues today: Third Space achieved revenues in excess of £50m in 2022, with £70m forecasted for 2023.

A playbook to set your team free

When the world’s 12th largest employer, which supplies corporate catering to leading global businesses, asks you to rebrand their offer, you know that a brand playbook is vital to its success. With countless stakeholders, Sodexo needed brand buy-in from absolutely everyone.

But the original brief to create a B2B brand didn’t address the reason staff canteens were failing: there were more exciting options outside the office. We needed a brand that spoke, not to Sodexo’s corporate clients, but to the end customers instead. So we saw an opportunity to turn corporate catering on its head.

Our pitch was exclusively ideas-driven, a risky move when you’re presenting to a large organisation, with layers of structure and process. “That actually resonated with us,” Adrian Evans, Sodexo’s then Food Transformation Director UK and Ireland, said. “Other agencies had come to the pitch with cookie-cutter approaches. When I look back, Without’s was a really simple pitch, but because it was simple, it was easy to connect it to what we were looking to achieve.”

Soon after winning the pitch, we were introduced to the wider Sodexo team, from senior management to food development and sales team – building those relationships at the initial stages is crucial to the successful delivery of a new brand.

Two ideas from our work in consumer hospitality helped change the game. First, ditch formal mealtimes and ‘themed’ food – the dreaded Mexican Tuesdays – in favour of an all-day offer, in both menu and environment. The second was generous, experiential branding: less logos and slogans, more materials and thoughtful details.

This principle helped unlock wide-ranging original behaviour. From marketing that emphasised tasty, creative food and drink to the design of relaxed multi-purpose environments and intelligent sales tools that drew links between food and environment, and wellbeing and productivity.

Modern Recipe has proved to be a commercial and consumer success. Not only has it improved retail sales by up to 60%, the brand has helped to secure millions in new and retained corporate contracts. It has since been rolled out by Sodexo in North America and Asia. In 2021, Modern Recipe won both a Gold DBA Effectiveness Award and the Grand Prix prize.

Modern Recipe is a simple brand based on food people want to eat, in spaces they want to be. It works because hospitality, in whatever form, is about people.

Caravan coffee roasters e-commerce website

Find your digital voice

If you’re sipping a cup of coffee in London, there’s a good chance that it’s from Caravan Coffee Roasters. They first came to us looking for a functional e-commerce site for both its restaurant and roastery sites, in order to bring their successful wholesale business direct to the consumer. But any brand design studio can – or certainly should – deliver function when it comes to a digital experience.

“When we work with a client, we look to create interest by finding difference,” explains Jonathan Jarvis, Without’s senior digital designer. “Stepping back, questioning a brief and focusing on an ideas-first approach in order to create something great. That thinking is applied to any brief – and digital outputs are no exception. Great ideas lead to digital innovation and that’s what sets the work apart.”

Coffee is a passion and Caravan is built on “casual excellence” – delivering exceptional quality without fuss. The website needed to have character and soul and to illustrate the specialty coffee experience – a journey from sourcing to savouring.

The site is an engaging day-to-day brewing tool, with tasting notes and brew tips for each method, illustrated by cinemagraph clips and accompanied by a handy timer, which follows you as you scroll.

The redesigned roastery site saw a tenfold increase in page views, and 27% above sector average for online sales conversions.

“Since launching the online platform, we have had coffee orders from all over the world and it’s been a really exciting journey so far,” co-founder Laura Harper-Hinton told us at the time. “Setting the tone through your branding, your website and the design of your spaces is critical to convey the whole message.”

Without create brands that make a difference. Receive our Defining Your Difference pocket guide to your inbox or if you’d like to discuss how your brand can connect with today’s consumers, get in touch on 02070999080 or [email protected]

This article first appeared in The Brief, a monthly email with conversations and provocation for leaders and founders of brands . Just sign up here to receive it directly to your inbox – and join the debate.

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